INDIANAPOLIS -- New England Patriots receiver Deion Branch has been to the top of the mountain before. Following the 2005 season, he was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, which happened to be the last time New England won a championship.
Does Branch have another big game in him during Super Bowl XLVI?
"Most importantly I want to win first," Branch said Monday. "Just to have double-digit catches when things go the wrong way, that's not what's up. Let's win the game first, then the individual accolades can come."
Branch is accustomed to stepping up in big games. In two career Super Bowls with New England, Branch has 21 receptions for 276 yards and a touchdown.
Branch, 32, also had a big, 61-yard touchdown reception against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round. He's still contributing as a starter in his 10th season.
"From my standpoint, from our team standpoint, I think that everybody knows how important Deion is to our football team, to our offense, to our passing game," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "He does a lot of things, he handles a lot of different responsibilities. ... I couldn't imagine anybody on our team not thinking that Deion Branch has a tremendous importance to our football team."
Branch may need to have another big game for the Patriots. Starting tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle) has been out of practice for a week, and his status is uncertain. Gronkowski expects to play. But at the very least he will be limited with an ankle sprain. That should open up more opportunities for players like Branch and teammates Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez.